Pope attacks Scotland's 'sectarianism' problems and suicide bill
The pope addressed Scotland's bishops yesterday and told them that Scotland was in trouble with sectarianism as a result of a "great rupture" with its Catholic past.
Speaking in Rome he also attacked MSP Margo MacDonald's attempt to pass an assisted suicide bill at Scotland's parliament at Holyrood, Edinburgh.
The pope also confirmed he will visit Scotland later in the year. John Paul II was the last pope to visit.
He spoke about Scotland's Protestant-Catholic religious divide and the Reformation of 1560 when Scots broke away from the Papacy. That shaped the Church of Scotland and Presbyterian churches worldwide.
He said "The Church in your country, like many in Northern Europe, has suffered the tragedy of division,"
"It is sobering to recall the great rupture with Scotland's Catholic past that occurred 450 years ago."
"I give thanks to God for the progress that has been made in healing the wounds that were the legacy of that period, especially the sectarianism that has continued to rear its head even in recent times," he said.
In Scotland yesterday, the Pope was urged to "relax", following his lament that Scotland was losing touch with religion.
Patrick Harvie, the leader of the Green Party, said: "I agree Scotland is a more secular society, but I think that's a very good thing for equality in all its forms and for all religions. I would invite his Holiness to relax about this social change and enjoy it. I would acknowledge sectarianism is a problem, but there are other forms of racism that are bigger problems."
His views on euthanasia were disputed by Ms MacDonald, the MSP who has been campaigning for terminally ill people to have the right to end their own lives.
She said it was "logical" for Catholic bishops to discuss the issue at their meeting but added: "
When the Pope refers to euthanasia, that is death brought about not on the wishes of the person concerned, but by another person who takes the decision.
"My bill rests on the autonomy of the person concerned, and their capacity to make their wishes known after medical examination and after satisfying witnesses they have not been coerced or persuaded to end their life. It appears as though the Pope is unaware of the difference."
Ian Wilson, Grand Master of the Orange Order in Scotland, disagreed with the Pope's description of a sectarian Scotland.
"I have never recognised that Scotland," he said.
"It might have been the Scotland of about a generation ago, but modern Scotland has lifted its sights above sectarianism.
"That's not to say that it still doesn't exist, but talking it up like this can be dangerous and we should be cautious."
A spokesman for the Church of Scotland said they "rejoiced" with Catholics over the fact the Pope was coming. "The last time a pope visited Scotland, it had a strong influence on ecumenical links and we hope this will be the case again," a spokesman said.